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201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Good news! New class of antibiotics on: January 12, 2015, 10:39:37 AM
202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jews leaving or are preparing to leave Paris/France on: January 12, 2015, 10:37:19 AM
203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 11, 2015, 10:33:54 PM
" "We need to work more closely with Internet companies to guarantee the reporting and if possible removal of all content that amounts to an apology of terrorism or calls for violence and hatred," he said."

I'm thinking this needs to be rather closely discussed.  Which would be a good thread for this?
204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: January 11, 2015, 08:58:21 PM
Again, I disagree with CK' idea, I am just pointing out that it is not a net increase, but a purportedly revenue neutral shift from taxing one thing to taxing a different thing with the goal of increasing economic efficiency.  That's all.
205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This too is true: Muslim hero on: January 11, 2015, 04:04:37 PM
206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: January 11, 2015, 12:43:26 PM
Well, although the idea is not well thought out IMHO, in fairness we must note that he seeks to offset the tax with tax cuts elsewhere.

207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam, theocratic politics, & political freedom on: January 11, 2015, 12:38:28 PM
With regard to Al Sisi, your question is right, but your facts incomplete-- probably due to a lack of coverage by the Pravdas.  In point of fact Al Sisi has gone to, and spoken at, Coptic Christian services and spoken well.
208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wow! Al Sisi and woman reporter on: January 11, 2015, 10:19:41 AM

I could be wrong but this seems rather huge to me (a more complete excerpt than what was previously posted) :

And this is pretty fg awesome too:
209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cold weather in SoCal!!! on: January 11, 2015, 03:59:09 AM
210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / God MIA at NBC again. on: January 11, 2015, 03:43:46 AM
211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in French no go zone on: January 11, 2015, 03:19:00 AM
Reliability of source unknown, but footage seems legit
212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 300,000 Muslim immigrants in 2013 on: January 11, 2015, 02:45:06 AM 
213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: January 11, 2015, 02:30:07 AM
A very good question.
214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A Physics Theory of Life on: January 10, 2015, 10:52:46 AM
215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah discovers it is against Islamic Fascism when applied against Hezbollah on: January 09, 2015, 07:05:00 PM
216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Romney on: January 09, 2015, 06:57:28 PM
217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I wonder what is behind this? on: January 09, 2015, 05:31:19 PM
Prosecutors Said to Recommend Charges Against Former Gen. David Petraeus

The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors have recommended bringing felony charges against retired Gen. David H. Petraeus for providing classified information to his former mistress while he was director of the C.I.A., officials said, leaving Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to decide whether to seek an indictment that could send the pre-eminent military officer of his generation to prison.

The Justice Department investigation stems from an affair Mr. Petraeus had with Paula Broadwell, an Army Reserve officer who was writing his biography, and focuses on whether he gave her access to his C.I.A. email account and other highly classified information.

Mr. Petraeus, a retired four star-general who served as commander of American forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, has said he never provided classified information to Ms. Broadwell, and has indicated to the Justice Department that he has no interest in a plea deal that would spare him an embarrassing trial.


218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cop Killers in High Places on: January 09, 2015, 04:17:44 PM
219  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB in the media on: January 09, 2015, 04:08:10 PM
Previews of an upcoming interview:
220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / OK, what do we do tomorrow morning at 0900? on: January 09, 2015, 10:30:26 AM
The subject line comes from my father, who always ended business meetings with that question.  Big theories are great, but what do we do tomorrow at 0900?

I may not agree with each and every one of the following, but the general thrust of it is most worthy of consideration:
221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: January 09, 2015, 10:07:26 AM
Why the eye roll?
222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: January 09, 2015, 10:06:46 AM
I am quite glad he is in the Senate, but as a Presidential candidate he would suck and our next President will be Hillary.
223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: STrassel: Restoring Regular Ordere on: January 09, 2015, 09:51:44 AM
Closing Down the Harry Reid Circus
Show that a GOP-controlled Senate can get things done, despite Democratic stonewalling.
By Kimberley A. Strassel
Jan. 8, 2015 7:04 p.m. ET

Were anyone wondering how Sen. Harry Reid intended to manage life in the minority, it took one day of the 114th Congress to get the answer: Exactly as he did in the majority. Republicans would be wise to understand what he’s up to.

The Senate these past four years has been a supermassive black hole—a place where everything good went to die. The chamber was designed as a forum for debate, amendments, deliberation and coalition-building. Mr. Reid instead wielded it as a means of party protection—using its many procedural tools to block every bill, and to shield his members and the Obama White House from tough issues.

And while he isn’t officially running the Senate anymore, he’s still running on a Senate dysfunction agenda. New Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to restore the place to “regular order,” though he recently got a taste of how hard that might prove. Mr. Reid this week again accused the former Republican minority of “gratuitous obstruction and wanton filibustering,” and vowed such tactics would not “be a hallmark of a Democratic minority.” He then proceeded to unleash all the obstruction and filibustering in Christendom to slow Mr. McConnell ’s first priority: authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Tuesday morning—the first day of session—assistant Democratic leader Sen. Dick Durbin took to the floor to formally object to the Senate Energy Committee even holding a hearing on the pipeline, despite Republicans having charitably arranged for even opponents of the project to testify. Having tanked that hearing, Mr. Reid’s office turned around and publicly complained Mr. McConnell wasn’t sticking to his promise to hold a hearing and report the bill out of committee. This was doubly rich, coming from a former Senate leader who barely acknowledged committees existed.

Democrats have meanwhile indicated they intend to filibuster the Keystone bill at every turn. They’ll demand 30 hours of debate here, 30 hours there. And nearly every Democratic office is already busy writing dozens of amendments to the bill—a few designed to embarrass Republicans, though plenty aimed at wasting time. “Republicans have promised an open amendment process, and that is exactly what they’re going to get,” crowed Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who voted on only about 20 amendments over the past 20 months. That was all Mr. Reid allowed.

The obvious explanation for all this stonewalling is that the vast majority of a liberal Democratic caucus doesn’t agree with GOP priorities and doesn’t want to see Republican legislation pass. Then again, most of the bills Republicans are starting with have bipartisan support and are destined for the president’s desk. So why all the Democratic rigmarole?

The reality is that Mr. Reid has a compelling interest in ordering his members to keep the Senate looking like a circus. He spent the past four years telling the American public that nothing got done under him because Republicans were obstructionist and because the Senate was “broken.” The “broken” point he even used as an excuse to blow up the filibuster for presidential nominations.

If Mr. McConnell is successful in using regular order (including debate, amendments, conference work, the filibuster) to begin methodically moving bills to Mr. Obama’s desk, that blows up the Reid story line. It exposes Democrats as the real obstructionists of the past years, even as it proves the GOP is able to get things done. Mr. Reid can’t let that happen.

The minority leader also has a more personal interest in keeping the Senate balled up: his own credibility within his party. Mr. Reid spent the past years assuring his members his Senate shutdown was protecting them from tough votes—a strategy that backfired phenomenally in the recent midterm election. Vulnerable Senate Democrats had nothing positive to show for their time in the chamber, and were instead tagged with the label of Obama lackeys.

Mr. McConnell is betting an honest committee process and a freewheeling amendment system will induce some Democrats to buy-in to legislation—allowing them to take credit back home for getting something done and for crafting bills in ways that benefit their states. Mr. Reid, who already came under fire from some of his members for his lockdown approach, would rather those members not realize there is a better way. Could be they might just want a different, more productive, leader going forward.

These Reid motivations, however, only underline how wise Mr. McConnell was to promise to return to regular order, and how important it is that Senate Republicans soldier on with it. The process will be frustrating, slow and at times risky. But done right, this will be more than just an opportunity for Republicans to outline a vision. It will be their opportunity to show that the Senate as an institution can work—at least under GOP care. That, too, will be crucial if they want to keep it in 2016.
224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: January 08, 2015, 10:39:37 PM
"and couldn't defend capitalism or his own work in the free enterprise system when pressed."

That is a zinger!
225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 46 pieces of good news on: January 08, 2015, 06:15:34 PM
226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 08, 2015, 06:05:53 PM
Very interesting Pat.  Thank you.
227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: January 08, 2015, 04:18:50 PM

Jeb Bush -  Too Rino?

I'm hearing good things about his record in FL, let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Let's find out more.

Chris Christie -  Too Rino? or whatever else?

Ego maniac, half the streets in town are named after him "One Way".  Remember his speech nominating Romney at the convention?  It was all about himself.  Remember his betrayal of Romney by sucking up to Obama at Sandy Hook's aftermath?  Recent record in NJ is not too good, and lots of people are now leaving NY.  We know NOTHING of his instincts on foreign affairs.  Plus he could keel over with a heart attack.

Mitt Romney - Too Rino, blew it last time, can't articulate certain things, and will never escape Romneycare.

Fair enough, but I think the man has deepened from his reflections on his loss and what has happened since then.  He has earned a credibility and a respect that he did not have before due to his various prescient calls.

Marco Rubio - Too young?  Too new?  (Looks good to me.)

Good man in many ways, but too young, NO executive experience, good call for VP

Ben Carson -  No political experience? But raising grass roots money. (Worth a try?)

Ultimately his lack of ANY experience in ANY aspect of governance is a huge gap, but I hope he garners much attention in the early campaign.  He is a very good man with much to offer-- and a temperament that will resonate very well with many.  He should be the one leading the charge on Obamacare and should we win, should become Sec. of HHS.

Ted Cruz - Too divisive?  (or just what is needed?)

All intellect, his entire life has been the law.   Fg tone deaf to human emotion.  As a candidate he would be a disaster. 

Bobby Jindal - Not exciting?  (So what.)

How would he give women a reason to vote against Hillary?  No track record on foreign affairs.

Rand Paul - Wrong on foreign policy?

Well, he's wrong in some ways, and quite right in others.  Which candidate would you trust to be your son's commander in chief while serving in the middle east?  Guys, we need to remember that the country as a whole is quite distrustful AND UNDERSTANDABLY SO of our government's competence in this regard.   A decent case can be made for regrouping.  Rand truly stands for many superb things on the domestic front when it comes to economic and personal freedom and cutting the government.  He also appears to have a genuine feeling for redefining to which groups the Reps appeal.   Don't write him off yet.

Rick Perry - Blew it last time.  3 term governor of the largest, Republican-led state.

Will always be seen as a Dan Quayle.  That he is very good on Tenth Amendment issues is a very good thing, but that is FAR FAR FAR from being a campaign.

Rick Santorum - Unelectable.

Quite good on Obamacare but Libs already razz him for being the only candidate with a plank in his platform about anal sex.  He will always be portrayed as a sexual busybody. 

Mike Pence -  Has both congressional and executive experience.  (The adult in the room?)

Boring white guy.

Scott Walker - Questionable national appeal?  (Or maybe just right.)

Boring white guy.

Carly Fiorina - Too Rino, no political experience.

And ran a crummy campaign for Senate here in CA.  Run her against Hillary?  Pathetic.

Mike Huckabee - No.

There is much I like about the man and he has a good temperament, but too many doubts about his record in AK.  I'm willing to give a listen, but at the moment I don't think it will go much further than that.

Kelly Ayotte -  Too new, too Rino?

Seems like a decent Senator, but other than that , , , so what? 

Susana Martinez - Not yet on the national stage.


Nikki Haley -   same?


Who did I miss -  ?
228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Similar to noises I have made on: January 08, 2015, 03:46:36 PM
229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 08, 2015, 10:56:36 AM
230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Volunteering, Giving, Charity, Tithing on: January 08, 2015, 10:40:58 AM
Woof All:

For several years now we have been making monthly donations to the Wounded Warrior Project.

As of today, we have discontinued that donation.


Just to make double sure, I just checked with Frankie McRae and he is of the same general opinion.

As part of our research on all this conducted on the "Things Soldierly" thread on the DBMA Ass'n forum, one of our members posted as follows:


Woof, Guro -

Here are some four-star (Charity Navigator) rated charities doing similar work to The Wounded Warrior Project:

Special Operations Warrior Foundation:
The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund:
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS):
Operation Homefront:
DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Charitable Service Trust:
Homes For Our Troops:
Fisher House Foundation:
The Air Warrior Courage Foundation:


Thus we are now giving a monthly donation to:

Frankie confirms them as an excellent group. He also recommends: with which is is personally involved; the event is held at his gun range just outside of Fayetteville, NC.

God bless America,
Marc/Crafty Dog
231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / YAY!!! on: January 07, 2015, 10:03:03 PM
232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Saudi Arabia faces a tough year ahead on: January 07, 2015, 04:33:35 PM
 Saudi Arabia Faces Challenges in the New Year
Geopolitical Weekly
January 6, 2015 | 09:00 GMT Print Text Size

By Michael Nayebi-Oskoui

The Middle East is one of the most volatile regions in the world — it is no stranger to upheaval. The 2009 uprisings in Iran and the brinksmanship of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government were followed by the chaos of the Arab Spring, the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Iraq and a potential realignment of the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Unlike recent years, however, 2015 is likely to see regional Sunni Arab interests realign toward a broader acceptance of moderate political Islam. The region is emerging from the uncertainty of the past half-decade, and the foundations of its future are taking shape. This process will not be neat or orderly, but changes are clearly taking place surrounding the Syrian and Libyan conflicts, as well as the region's anticipation of a strengthened Iran.

The Middle East enters 2015 facing several crises. Libyan instability remains a threat to North African security, and the Levant and Persian Gulf must figure out how to adjust course in the wake of the U.S.-Iranian negotiations, the Sunni-Shiite proxy war in Syria and Iraq, and the power vacuum created by a Turkish state bogged down by internal concerns that prevent it from assuming a larger role throughout the region. Further undermining the region is the sharp decline in global oil prices. While Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates will be able to use considerable cash reserves to ride out the slump, the rest of the Middle East's oil-exporting economies face dire consequences.

For decades, long-ruling autocratic leaders in countries such as Algeria and Yemen helped keep militancy in check, loosely following the model of military-backed Arab nationalism championed by Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. Arab monarchs were able to limit domestic dissent or calls for democracy through a combination of social spending and repression. The United States not only partnered with many of these nations to fight terrorism — especially after September 2001 — but also saw the Gulf states as a reliable bulwark against Iranian expansion and a dangerous Iraq led by Saddam Hussein. Levantine instability was largely contained to Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, while Israel's other neighbors largely abided by a tacit agreement to limit threats emanating from their territories.

Today, Saddam's iron grip on Iraq has been broken, replaced by a fractious democracy that is as threatened by the Islamic State as it is by its own political processes. Gone are the long-time leaders of states like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Meanwhile, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Oman are facing uncertain transitions that could well take place by year's end. The United States' serious dialogue with Iran over the latter's nuclear program, once a nearly unthinkable scenario for many in the Gulf, has precipitated some of the biggest shifts in regional dynamics, especially as Saudi Arabia and its allies work to lessen their reliance on Washington's protection.

The Push for Sunni Hegemony

Riyadh begins this year under considerably more duress than it faced 12 months ago. Not only is King Abdullah gravely ill (a bout of pneumonia forced the 90-year-old ruler to ring in the new year in the hospital and on a ventilator), but the world's largest oil-producing country has also entered into a price war with American shale producers. Because Saudi Arabia and its principal regional allies, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, boast more than a trillion dollars in cash reserves between them, they will be able to keep production levels constant for the foreseeable future.

However, other OPEC producers have not been able to weather the storm as easily. The resulting 40 percent plunge in oil prices is placing greater financial pressure on Iran and the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq, Saudi Arabia's largest sectarian and energy rivals. Riyadh's careful planning and building of reserves means the Saudi kingdom's economic security is unlikely to come under threat in the next one to three years. The country will instead continue to focus on not only countering Iran but also rebuilding relationships with regional Sunni actors weakened in previous years.

Riyadh's regional strategy has traditionally been to support primarily Sunni Arab groups with a conservative, Salafist religious ideology. Salafist groups traditionally kept out of politics, and their conservative Sunni ideology was useful in Saudi Arabia's competition against Iran and its own Shiite proxies. Promoting Salafism also served as a tool to limit the reach of more ideologically moderate Sunni political Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, groups Riyadh sees as a threat because of their success in organizing grassroots support and fighting for democratic reforms.

With rise of external regional pressures, however, Gulf monarchies such as Saudi Arabia are re-evaluating their relationships with the Muslim Brotherhood. Internal threats posed by Salafist jihadists and a desire to limit future gains by regional opponents are pushing countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to try to forge a relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood to limit the risks posed by rival groups in the region.

Restoring relations with the Muslim Brotherhood will also have effects on diplomatic relations. Qatar has long been a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fact that has strained its relations with other countries — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates even went so far as to close their embassies in Qatar. However, the continuation of the United States' rapprochement with Iran and Riyadh's own discomfort with the rise of Salafist jihadist groups has made it reconsider its stance on political Islamism. Riyadh, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi's agreement to resume diplomatic ties with Doha, and the latter's consideration of changing its relationships with Egypt and Libya, points to a shift in how the bloc's engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood has the potential to streamline the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) efforts in the region.

The Gulf monarchies' attempt at reconciling with political Islamists can potentially benefit the GCC. For its part, Qatar has engaged with the staunchly anti-Islamist Libyan government in Tobruk, and it appears tensions with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government in Egypt have calmed. Both scenarios point to the likelihood of the GCC moving closer to adopting a more unified regional stance beginning in 2015, one more in line with Riyadh's wishes to preserve the framework of the council.

This improvement in relations comes at a critical moment. With the United States and Iran undergoing a rapprochement of their own, the Gulf monarchies will try to secure their own interests by becoming directly involved in Libya, Syria and potentially Yemen. This military action will also aim to project strength to Iran while also filling the strategic void left by the absence of Turkish leadership in the region, especially in the Levant.

However, Qatar has been opposed to this course of action in the past. Despite its small size, the country has used its wealth and domestic stability to back a wide array of Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ennahda in Tunisia and rebel groups in Syria. Tensions between Qatar and regional allies came to a head in 2014 in the aftermath of Saudi and Emirati support for the July 2013 uprising that ousted the Doha-backed Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. The tension threatened the stability of the GCC and caused rebel infighting in Syria. This disconnect in Gulf policy has had wide regional repercussions, including the success of Islamic State militants against Gulf-backed rebel groups in Syria and the Islamic States' expansion into Iraq.

Without foreign military intervention on behalf of the rebels, no faction participating in the Syrian civil war will be able to declare a decisive military victory. As the prospects of a clear-cut outcome become less realistic, Bashar al Assad's Russian and Iranian backers are increasing diplomatic efforts to negotiate a settlement in Syria, especially as both are eager to refocus on domestic woes exacerbated by the current drop in global energy prices. Kuwait's recent decision to allow the Syrian regime to reopen its embassy to assist Syrian expats living within its borders points to a likelihood that the Gulf states are coming to terms with the reality that al Assad is unlikely to be ousted by force, and Sunni Arab stakeholders in the Syrian conflict are gradually giving in to the prospect of a negotiated settlement. A resolution to the Syrian crisis will not come in 2015, but regional actors will continue looking for a solution to the crisis outside of the battlefield.

Any negotiated settlement will see the Sunni principals in the region — led by the GCC and Turkey — work to implement a competent Sunni political organization that limits the authority of a remnant Alawite government in Damascus and future inroads by traditional backers in Tehran. Muslim Brotherhood-style political Islam represents one of the potential Sunni solutions within this framework, and with Saudi opposition to the group potentially fading, it remains a possible alternative to the variety of Salafist options that could exist — to include jihadists. Such a solution ultimately relies on a broader democratic framework to be implemented, a scenario that will likely remain elusive in Syria for years to come.
North Africa's Long Road to Stability

North African affairs have traditionally followed a trajectory distinct from that of the Levant and Persian Gulf, a reality shaped as much by geography as by political differences between the Nasser-inspired secular governments and the monarchies of the Gulf. Egypt, Saudi Arabia's traditional rival for leadership of the Sunni Arab world, has become cripplingly dependent on the financial backing of its former Gulf rivals. The GCC was able to use its relative stability and oil wealth to take advantage of opportunities to secure its members' interests in North Africa following the Arab Spring. As a result, Cairo has become a launching pad for Gulf intentions, particularly UAE airstrikes against Islamist militants in Libya and joint Egyptian-Gulf backing of renegade Gen. Khalifa Hifter's Operation Dignity campaign.

Like Syria, Libya represents a battleground for competing regional Sunni ambitions. Qatar, and to a lesser extent Turkey, backed Libya's powerful Islamist political and militia groups led by the re-instated General National Congress in Tripoli after the international community recognized the arguably anti-Islamist House of Representatives in Tobruk. Islamist-aligned political and militia forces control Libya's three largest cities, and Egyptian- and Gulf-backed proxies are making little headway against opponents in battles to gain control of Tripoli and Benghazi, prompting more direct action by Cairo and Abu Dhabi.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are primarily concerned with the possibility of Libya, an oil-rich state bordering Egypt, becoming a wealthy backer of political Islam. Coastal-based infighting has left much of Libya's vast desert territories available for regional jihadists as well as a host of smuggling and trafficking activities, posing a significant security risk not just for regional states but Western interests as well. Egyptian and Gulf attempts to shape outcomes on the ground in Libya have proved largely ineffective, and Western plans for reconciliation talks favor regional powers such as Algeria — a traditional rival to Egyptian and Gulf interests in North Africa — that are more comfortable working with political actors across a wide spectrum of political ideologies to include Muslim Brotherhood-style Islamism.

Libya will likely find itself as the proving ground for the quid pro quo happening between the participants of the intra-Sunni rift over political Islam. In exchange for Saudi Arabia and its partners reducing their pressure on Muslim Brotherhood-style groups in Egypt and Syria, Qatar and Turkey are likely to work more visibly with Tobruk in 2015 in addition to pushing Islamist proxies into a Western-backed national dialogue. Libya's overall security situation will not be settled through mediation, but Libyan Islamists are more likely to re-enter a coalition with the political rivals now that both sides' Gulf backers are working toward settling differences themselves.
Regional Impact

Dysfunction and infighting have marred attempts by the region's Sunni actors to formulate a cohesive strategy in Syria. This has enabled Iran to remain entrenched in the Levant — albeit while facing pressure — and to continue expending resources competing in arenas such as Libya and Egypt. The next year will likely see an evolving framework where Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and to a lesser extent Turkey, will reach a delicate understanding on the role of political Islam in the region. 2014 saw a serious reversal in the fortunes of Muslim Brotherhood-style groups, which inadvertently favored even more far-right and extremist groups such as the Islamic State as the Gulf's various Sunni proxies were focused on competing with one another.

Iran's slow but steady push toward a successful negotiation with the United States, as well as the threats posed by militant Islam throughout the Levant, Iraq and North Africa, is necessitating a realignment of relationships within the Middle East's diverse Sunni interests. Less divisive Sunni leadership will be instrumental in coordinating efforts to resolve the conflicts in both Libya and Syria, although resolution in both conflicts will remain out of reach in 2015 and some time beyond.

A more robust Sunni Arab position, especially in Syria and the Levant, will likely put more pressure on Iran to reach a negotiated settlement with the United States by the end of the year. While a settlement may seem harmful to Gulf interests, the GCC is shifting toward a pragmatic acceptance of an agreement, similar to Riyadh's begrudging accommodation of a future role for the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East. The GCC's new goal is to limit Tehran's opportunities for success rather than outright denying it. Part of this will be achieved through an ongoing, aggressive energy strategy. The rest will come from internal negotiations between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Turkey.

The next year will see the Sunni presence in Syria attempt to coalesce behind rebels acceptable to Western governments that are eager to see negotiations begin and greater local pushback against the Islamic State. More cohesive Gulf leadership will also present a more effective bulwark against Iranian and Alawite interests in the Levant. Most important, however, is the opportunity for regional Sunnis, led by Saudi Arabia, to present a more mature and capable response to mounting pressures. Whether through more assertive military moves in the region or by working with states such as Qatar to steer the Muslim Brotherhood rather than embolden the Islamist opposition, 2015 will likely see a shift in Sunni Arab strategies that have long shaped the region.

Read more: Saudi Arabia Faces Challenges in the New Year | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Note the reference contrasting Islam in the US on: January 07, 2015, 04:31:26 PM
 Tactics Suggest Overseas Jihadi Training in Paris Newspaper Shooting
January 7, 2015 | 14:06 GMT Print Text Size
French soldiers patrol in front of the Eiffel Tower on Jan. 7, 2015 in Paris. (JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

Three gunmen killed 12 people and critically wounded five in an attack this morning at the headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Among the dead were two French police officers assigned to protect the office. The magazine is widely known for lampooning Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, and it has paid a high price for it. The magazine's Paris office was completely destroyed by a Molotov cocktail attack in November 2011 in response to a previous edition that contained caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. The magazine's editors refused to tone down their content despite repeated threats, the past attack and requests by the French government not to publish provocative images.

This attitude meant that they continued to be in the crosshairs of jihadists in recent years. For example, the 10th edition of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire magazine contained a hit list of people who had insulted the Prophet Mohammed. That list included Stephane Charbonnier, the editor of Charlie Hebdo, whom, according to early reports of today's attack, is among the dead. One of the attackers was alleged to have shouted out, "You tell the media it was al Qaeda in Yemen" during the assault, Britain's Channel 4 News reported.

That such an attack occurred in Paris is not surprising. Indeed, the jihadist threat in France and other parts of Europe has been acute for some time. From photos and videos of the attack it appears that the gunmen were trained, from the way they handled their weapons, moved and shot. This raises the possibility that they had received training in using light arms (perhaps at a jihadist camp overseas) or had fought with jihadists overseas.

The method used in the attacks is also not surprising. Jihadists returning from overseas rarely receive training in advanced terrorist tradecraft, but almost all of them receive training in small arms and small unit tactics. These attackers conducted a successful attack using what they knew instead of attempting to conduct an attack beyond their capability and failing as a result.

That the attack involved a group instead of a lone gunman is also unsurprising. The nature of the jihadist threat is slightly different in Europe than it is in the United States because of differences in the Muslim communities. In the United States, where the Muslim community is more integrated and less likely to be isolated in their own districts, plotters tend to be more self-radicalized and aspirational. Once they become radicalized — frequently via the Internet — it is quite common for them to be arrested as they seek assistance with their plots from individuals who are FBI agents or police informants working on sting operations.

Because of Europe's concentrated and disenfranchised Muslim population, it is not difficult for radicalized European Muslims to find confederates who are not police informants. Even more aspirational and inept groups — such as the four men who were arrested in April 2012, in Luton, United Kingdom, and who pled guilty to plotting to attack a British army base on March 1, 2013 — can be part of a larger radicalized community and have friends and relatives who have been involved in prior plots or who have traveled overseas to fight jihad. This was true for Toulouse shooter Mohammed Merah. Although he conducted his shooting attacks alone, Merah had long been part of a larger militant community and had traveled to places like Pakistan and Afghanistan to train and fight.

The gunmen, who are still at large, can be expected to continue to attack until they are killed or captured. They may or may not have been acting under direct orders from a jihadist group but were in all likelihood working in solidarity with either al Qaeda or the Islamic State. There will probably be some sort of claim of responsibility, in which their ideological affiliation will be made clear, beyond shouted statements reported from the scene.

The attacks happened at a time when the role of Muslim minorities in France is the subject of a heated debate, especially after the publication of a novel that depicts a Muslim president governing France. It also happens at a time when the anti-immigration National Front is seeing record levels of popular support and will probably be a serious contender for the presidential elections of 2017. The situation of Muslim minorities is also controversial in Germany, where anti-Islam protests have taken place in recent months, and in the Netherlands, where the far-right Party of Freedom proposes tighter immigration laws.

Such attacks will continue in the West as long as jihadism survives as an ideology. They will be limited in scope but intended to cause terrorist theater that spills well beyond the limits of the attack to create vicarious victims. Because of this continuing threat, citizens should practice appropriate situational awareness and be prepared to properly respond to danger.

Read more: Tactics Suggest Overseas Jihadi Training in Paris Newspaper Shooting | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paul Revere's Time Capsule on: January 07, 2015, 02:19:17 PM
235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dynamic Scoring wins on: January 07, 2015, 12:59:51 PM
Scott Grannis:

Dynamic scoring is here to stay and it's huge
Posted: 06 Jan 2015 10:23 PM PST
For the past year or so, I've been talking about how dynamic scoring was on track to fundamentally change the way the Congressional Budget Office evaluates legislative proposals. Today it was made official, as Ed Lazear notes in tomorrow's WSJ:
The House of Representatives on Tuesday adopted a rule that will change Washington and lawmaking for the better. When legislation is proposed, the Congressional Budget Office is tasked with estimating its fiscal consequences. In most cases, the CBO assumes there is no effect on economic growth, positive or negative. In the future, the House will instruct the CBO to take macroeconomic effects into account when estimating the cost of legislation.

With this, a long-time dream of supply-siders has been realized. It will surely mark a turning point in the economic history of the U.S. economy.

Predictably, some Democrats denounced the change. In my view, this issue should transcend politics because it is simply a question of basic economics. If you raise or lower taxes, you will change people's behavior. If these dynamics are not properly considered, then legislation can and most likely will suffer from negative and "unforeseen" consequences.

As Scott Hodges of the Tax Foundation today noted:
Dynamic scoring is not a plot to cut taxes without paying for them, rather it is an important tool for raising the tax IQ of members of Congress so that they understand the different effects that various tax increases or tax cuts have on the economy. The ultimate goal is to enact tax policies that improve the lives of all Americans, which won’t happen if we continue to protect Washington’s status quo.

Read the whole thing

236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Martyrs for Truth on: January 07, 2015, 12:39:12 PM
Charlie Hebdo: Martyrs for the Truth
by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
January 7, 2015
 With the massacre of Charlie Hebdo magazine's editors and cartoonists in Paris by Islamic gunmen early Wednesday afternoon, the forces of radical Islam lay the gauntlet down: radical Islam is not just fighting against Western freedom, or the hegemony of Western powers. Their real enemy is truth.

The killing of the Charlie Hebdo staff was not the first time Islamists have made a point of murdering journalists or commentators, or the first time they have risen up against satirists in the West. The record is rich with them: the slaughter in broad daylight of Theo van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam in November, 2004; the many attempts on the life of Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist responsible for the drawings of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban; the plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Viks, for similar drawings; the kidnap and murder of American journalist Steven Vincent in response to his New York Times article exposing corruption in the Basra police force in 2005; the beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff in 2014; and the 2011 bombing of the Charlie Hebdo offices in response to the magazine's own publication of cartoons about Mohammed. Among others.

(And that doesn't even address the strong-arming and censorship of Muslim countries – even "democratic" Turkey, which, under the iron hand of Islamist president (and former prime minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been condemned internationally for its imprisonment of journalists. Indeed, on a list of 170 countries graded on press freedom, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabi a stand at 154, 158, 159, and 164, respectively.)

But what is most terrifying about the Charlie Hebdo massacre is the fact that we can no longer hide behind excuses about "lone wolf" terrorists who are "unbalanced" or "disturbed." Such descriptions are the way in which both media and public officials have attempted to minimize the impulses behind attacks such as the one in Fort Hood in 2009, or the attempts to behead two police officers in the streets of New York. What today's events in Paris make clear is that this is not the work of individual crazies, and that Islam is, in fact, a part of the equation.

It's time to stop pretending otherwise.

Let's be clear: the killers announced after their rampage that "this was vengeance for the Prophet Mohammed." Some witnesses claim that at least one of the men cried "Allahu Akbar," ("Allah is great"), the rallying cry of Islamic terrorists. And while many Muslim organizations condemned the attack, other Muslims have taken to Facebook and other social media to praise them.

But as CNN's Anderson Cooper said, "This was an attack on journalism." And an attack on journalism is an attack against truth, against insight, against knowledge – against the Enlightenment.

The weapons may not be new, but the frontier Muslim extremists are fighting on – the destruction of the media, of truth – is one we have not paid enough attention to before.

In many cases, we've perhaps contributed to it: most American and other Western publications refused to republish the Danish Mohammed cartoons after they first set off international rioting among Muslims. And even the Bush administration spoke out against them, saying "We find them offensive, and we certainly understand why Muslims would find these images offensive."

And in 2012, White House spokesman Jay Carney criticized Charlie Hebdo for publishing cartoons mocking Mohammed.

"[W]e have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this. We know that these images will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory. But we've spoken repeatedly about the importance of upholding the freedom of expression that is enshrined in our Constitution," Carney said.
"In other words, we don't question the right of something like this to be published; we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it. And I think that that's our view about the video that was produced in this country and has caused so much offense in the Muslim world."

Perhaps in this, Charlie Hebdo was way ahead of the rest of us: they, along with the editors of the Danish Jyllands Posten, which first published the "Mohammed cartoons," have been fighting back from the very start. Shockingly, even Western commentators (and especially Western Muslims) condemned the cartoonists in Denmark, just as they condemned Theo van Gogh and, today, Charlie Hebdo for "inviting" these attacks through their "recklessness."

Nothing Charlie Hebdo ever did was "reckless," any more than Steven Vincent's reporting was reckless, any more than Theo van Gogh's film Submission, about honor killings and the abuse of women in Islam, was reckless. In Charlie Hebdo's case, it was about satire on the face of it – but more than that, their work was about the very urgent need to preserve free expression, and to condemn – in any and all ways possible – those who seek to destroy it.

In the memory of those who died for truth and freedom, we cannot give up that fight – and we cannot afford to lose it.

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.
237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Erdogan grooms a new Jihad Generation on: January 07, 2015, 12:05:37 PM
Guest Column: Erdogan Grooms a New Jihad Generation
by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
January 6, 2015
 First, he promised to build a new, "religious generation." Now, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be going one step further: creating, too, a new generation for jihad.  If that sounds a bit like the Islamic State, there is one significant distinction: IS leaders shape their youth by teaching them to use Kalashnikovs and knives. Erdogan is shaping children's minds. And that can be far more dangerous.

This is not to say that Erdogan is himself a terrorist leader, despite his cozy relationships with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. And perhaps has has never realized the full gravity of his programs. But is there, leaving many in Turkey's Western, secular, intellectual elite to worry about their children's future.  Throughout his leadership, beginning with his election to prime minister in 2003, Erdogan has restructured the formerly-secular education system overseeing the growth of imam hatip, or religious training schools, throughout the country. According to the Financial Times, such schools boasted 63,000 students in 2002-2003; by 2014, the number of imam hatip students had exploded to 983,000.

What makes this particularly disturbing is the fact that tens, if not hundreds of thousands of these students never signed up for imam hatips to begin with. Rather, Erdogan systematically reshaped existing secular public schools and redesigned the student examination system so that thousands of children are assigned to imam hatips even against their will.  But he hasn't stopped there. As of a year ago, all public schools also provide mandatory "religious culture and ethics" courses beginning at age nine. Yet despite a 2007 European Court of Human Rights ruling requiring education in all religions, human rights lawyer and columnist Orhan Kemal Cengiz writes in Al-Monitor, "Sunni Islam continues to be imposed, with students required to memorize Islamic prayers and Quranic verses."

Now Turkey's first democratically-elected president has, through his education minister, expanded such "morality" classes to begin in nursery school, where six-year-olds will receive such lessons as "patience protects young people's chastity in environments full of illegitimate desires." Children throughout the Republic, according to newspaper Milliyet, will also learn that "death is a blessing according to our faith. It means salvations from the heavy burden of living."

Can calls for martyrdom be far behind?

Moreover, the "morality" and "values" lessons being taught to many of Turkey's youth are being given by teachers whose religious and political leanings heavily tint their "moral" views. At Istanbul's 500-year-old Galatasaray academy, a student's mother told me, one teacher taught her class that green is the color both of inner peace and of Islam. But be careful, the teacher said. Starbucks' logo is also green, yet she would never buy her coffee from them: "the owners of Starbucks are Jews, and the Jews are killing our Muslim brothers." A Jewish girl in the class remained silent; but when her mother complained to the school's director, he did nothing.
And so goes "morality" for the future of the Turkish people.

These latest moves follow another, significant effort: requiring schools to teach the Ottoman language and alphabet, both of which were banned by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1928, five years after the founding of the Republic.

This, as Al Jazeera recently pointed out, is no small matter. Ataturk banned Ottoman as a language, including its written form – which melded Arabic and Farsi script –as a critical part of his program to turn the country Westward: modern Turkish uses a Western, Latin alphabet and incorporates words from English and German. Few contemporary Turks can read Ottoman, and even fewer understand Arabic or Farsi.

But a culture rests profoundly on its language. Stanford University psychology professor Lera Boroditsky has found that "if you change how people talk, that changes how they think. If people learn another language, they inadvertently also learn a new way of looking at the world ... All this new research shows us that the languages we speak not only reflect or express our thoughts, but also shape the very thoughts we wish to express. The structures that exist in our languages profoundly shape how we construct reality."

By reintroducing Ottoman as a language, especially alongside religious educational systems, Erdogan is returning his country to its Ottoman, Islamic past both in knowledge and in thought – and away from the modern secular state that has long been a partner and ally of the West. And in his oft-underestimated shrewdness, he is using the minds of Turkey's youngest to lead the way: those six-year-olds now learning to honor death and memorize the Quran and identify with the glory of the Ottomans will, in 12 years, enter the nation's military.

Which seems to be just what Erdogan has had in mind all along. Writing in World Affairs Journal in 2013, Hillel Fradkin and Lewis Libby pointed to a little-noticed remark then-Prime Minister Erdogan made to his congress, in which he called on the country's youth to look beyond the 100th anniversary of the Republic in 2023 and to prepare for the year 2071. "This is a date that is unlikely to be meaningful for Westerners," Fradkin and Libby observe, "but is evocative for many Turks. 2071 will mark one thousand years since the Battle of Manzikert. There, the Seljuk Turks—a tribe originally from Central Asia—decisively defeated the leading Christian power of that era, the Byzantine Empire, and thereby stunned the medieval world. At the battle's end, the Seljuk leader stepped on the Christian emperor's throat to mark Christendom's humiliation. The Seljuk victory began a string of events that allowed the Seljuk Turks to capture the lands of modern Turkey and create an empire that would stretch across much of Palestine, Iraq, Syria, and Iran.

In evoking Manzikert, Erdogan recalled for today's Turks the glories of their aggressive warrior ancestors who had set out to conquer non-Muslim lands and, along the way, fought off the hated Shias of their day to dominate much of the Middle East."

Less than two years later, with ISIS building its caliphate-by-blood just across the border, the shaping of the new Erdogan generation looks more threatening than ever.
Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.
238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: 1787 on: January 07, 2015, 11:41:45 AM
"To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of the declamations and by the bitterness of their invectives." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1, 1787
239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: Jeb Bush and Hillary are co-dependent on: January 07, 2015, 11:28:19 AM
240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CA death panels on: January 07, 2015, 09:51:28 AM
241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jeb Bush on: January 07, 2015, 09:48:27 AM
For obvious reasons Jeb gets his own thread.

I know we here have strong doubts about him (amnesty, common core) but I have read in more than one place that he has a very good record as Gov. of FL.  I saw the front page of his website on the news this morning and I must say I very much liked the bullet points he chose, things like Freedom, Free Enterprise, Strong National Defense, and more.

242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Elizabeth "Forked Tongue" Warren, Fauxcahontas, Harvard's first woman of color on: January 07, 2015, 09:45:57 AM
Elizabeth Warren Takes Aim at Democrats, Republicans
Peter Nicholas
Jan. 7, 2015 10:00 a.m. ET

Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivers a stinging critique of Republicans and Democrats alike in a speech this morning that says policies pushed by both parties have created financial hardships for everyday families while further enriching a narrow sliver of Americans.

At a Washington, D.C., forum hosted by union group AFL-CIO, the freshman Democratic senator from Massachusetts said headlines suggesting the economy is rebounding don’t square with the realities endured by households struggling with student loans, burdensome mortgage payments and sluggish wages.
Elizabeth Warren in December ENLARGE
Elizabeth Warren in December Associated Press

Ms. Warren is a popular figure among liberal Democrats who want her to run for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016. If Ms. Warren were to jump in the race she would be a heavy underdog against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is widely expected to announce her candidacy in the coming months. Ms. Warren has said she isn't running for president and plans to finish out her term.

The Draft Warren effort reflects a yearning in Democratic circles for a populist Democrat who will, if nothing else, force Mrs. Clinton to move left and make addressing income inequality a policy priority.

In prepared remarks released by her office, Ms. Warren says the falling jobless rate and low inflation are small comfort to millions of Americans who still haven’t recovered from the financial collapse in 2008.

“If you are young and starting out life with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt locked into high interest rates by Congress, unable to find a good job or save to buy a house, how are you benefiting from low inflation?” she asks.

Ms. Warren acknowledges that the national economy is recovering, but says, “There have been deep structural changes in this economy, changes that have gone on for more than 30 years, changes that have cut out hardworking, middle class families from sharing in this overall growth.”

In the speech, Ms. Warren doesn’t mention Bill or Hillary Clinton by name. Yet she took some veiled swipes at the family that has been a fixture of national politics for the past quarter century.

Former President Bill Clinton moved the Democratic Party to the center in his two terms in office, ushering in free-trade policies, overhauling the nation’s welfare system, and signing a deregulatory bill that lifted constraints on commercial banks and other financial institutions. In his State of the Union address in 1996, Mr. Clinton proclaimed that the “era of big government is over.”

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Ms. Warren, in her speech, said, “Pretty much the whole Republican Party—and, if we’re going to be honest, too many Democrats—talked about the evils of ’big government’ and called for deregulation. It sounded good, but it was really about tying the hands of regulators and turning loose big banks and giant international corporations to do whatever they wanted to do—turning them loose to rig the markets and reduce competition, to outsource more jobs, to load up on more risks and hide behind taxpayer guarantees, to sell more mortgages and credit cards that cheated people. In short, to do whatever juiced short-term profits even if it came at the expense of working families.”

Ms. Warren also singled out Wal-Mart Stores Inc., a company that figures in Mrs. Clinton’s past. As first lady of Arkansas, Mrs. Clinton served on the company’s board of directors for six years.

Ms. Warren said that while corporate profits and gross domestic product are rising, “if you work at Wal-Mart and you are paid so little that you still need food stamps to put groceries on the table, what does more money in stockholders’ pockets and an uptick in GDP do for you?”

Ms. Warren put forward a few ideas for brightening the prospects of middle class families.

She called for new spending on roads, bridges, and education. Such projects would be financed through “real, honest-to-goodness changes that make sure that we pay—and corporations pay—a fair share to build a future for all of us,” she says.

At least one other potential Democratic candidate is unwilling to cede to Ms. Warren the status as the party’s foremost populist firebrand.

Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, in his single public appearance since launching his presidential exploratory committee, has suggested that he would make income inequality a central focus.

“We have a strata of people at the very top who for a complicated set of reasons have grown further and further away from the rest of our society,” Mr. Webb told reporters in Richmond, Va., last month. “We need to find proper avenues in terms of government policy to make sure that equal opportunity and economic fairness can exist.”

He continued: “There has to be a way, without slowing down the ability of those in our society that are the risk takers and the profit makers, there has to be a way to make sure that people are equally paid their fair share of the obligations that we have to keep this country going.”

Still, it is Ms. Warren—not Mr. Webb—who has energized a Democratic liberal wing that believes Mrs. Clinton is too closely tied to Wall Street banking interests.

Mr. Webb will seek to change that if he decides to mount a serious presidential campaign, an aide said.

“The issue of economic inequality and the dangers of foreign intervention are things he’s talked about for a long time, long before Sen. Warren came along,” said Mr. Webb’s communications director, Craig Crawford. “That just goes to a big reason to why he’s seriously considering this. He thinks it’s time for working people to have a president.”

—Reid Epstein contributed to this article.
243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: January 07, 2015, 09:40:37 AM
Apparently the publication in question was part of the Mohammed cartoon brouhaha in 2006 and until a few days ago had 24/7 protection.  The hit took place at the time of a meeting when pretty much everyone would be there.
244  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Kicks in Eskrima on: January 07, 2015, 07:57:38 AM
245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on the Dollar's rise on: January 06, 2015, 06:48:11 PM
I'm claiming an I-told-y'all-so on this one  cheesy

The Double-Edged Dollar
The rising buck is good for consumers, but watch out for overshooting.
Photo: Getty Images
Jan. 6, 2015 7:19 p.m. ET

The most important economic story these days is the relentless rise of the dollar, with effects good and ill. We’d be more confident of the benefits if the world’s central bankers appeared to be navigating this monetary weather with any kind of rudder.
Opinion Journal Video
Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot on foreign exchange trends and why a stronger greenback helps the U.S. economy. Photo credit: Getty Images.

As notable as the magnitude of the greenback’s rise has been its rapidity: 13% against the euro and some 15% against the yen since the end of June. Capital that had flowed into emerging markets since the world financial panic is now heading back to the land of the free and its relative economic strength.

In some ways this is good news for the U.S. because it marks a recovery from the weak-dollar Bush and Obama years and echoes of the strong-dollar mid-1980s and late 1990s. Both strong-dollar eras featured disinflation, falling interest rates, investment flows into the U.S. and economic booms. They were also notable for falling prices for commodities traded in dollars, such as oil, which nearly reached $10 a barrel in 1998 as the dollar soared. One reason Bill Clinton survived impeachment is that gasoline sold for 89 cents a gallon.

The greenback’s current rise is contributing more than is commonly understood to a similar plunge in oil, with the world price falling to $51 a barrel from $112 as recently as June. Gasoline has fallen by more than $1 a gallon in much of the country. This is great news for consumers who can now devote less of their after-tax income to energy.

All other things being equal, we prefer a strong and stable dollar to a falling one. But note the word stable. Currency volatility has costs, as Nobel laureate Robert Mundell teaches, and movements as far and fast as the dollar’s could create some economic wreckage.

One consequence is the rush out of emerging markets of the kind that hasn’t been seen since the late 1990s. Energy- and commodity-related stocks and bonds are also taking a hit, and there may be major casualties. The U.S. Farm Belt and oil patch will suffer. While the pain follows an extended boom, this will be small consolation to over-leveraged companies and investors. Texas and other oil boom states should adjust their budgets now.
Photo: wsj

Readers may recall that the late 1990s saw the Asia currency crisis, the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management, and the first run on the ruble. Bad things happen amid rapid price shifts. In the 1990s the Federal Reserve could and did help the economy adjust to those shocks by cutting interest rates, but the Fed has no such leeway today with its short-term rate set at near-zero.

Perhaps the best reason for mixed feelings is that much of the dollar’s rally is rooted more in economic weakness overseas than in U.S. strength. The global economy has slowed sharply, with Japan, France and Russia in recession, China decelerating as it adjusts to previous malinvestment, and Europe overall barely growing.

Japan and Europe are contributing to the dollar’s surge by actively pursuing yen and euro devaluation—cheered on by the U.S. Treasury. The play is to help their exporters ride on the back of what they hope will be an accelerating U.S. expansion. For Europe and Japan, monetary policy has become the default alternative to supply-side economic reform.

But as Japan has shown since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Bank of Japan began their weak-yen policy in 2013 (see nearby chart), devaluation may help some exporting companies but it can’t stimulate domestic competition and demand. It isn’t likely to work much better for Mario Draghi and the European Central Bank.

The U.S. Federal Reserve, meanwhile, is signaling a possible monetary move in the opposite direction, getting off zero-bound interest rates for the first time in more than six years. This lack of central bank coordination contributes to currency volatility, as each nation pursues what it sees as its own economic interests, no matter the impact abroad.

San Francisco Fed President John Williams gave currency traders a jolt on Monday by saying the strong dollar means there is less urgency for the Fed to raise rates or begin reducing its $4.5 trillion balance sheet. But delay runs the risk of increasing the distortions in financial markets caused by the Fed’s monetary exertions, especially if U.S. growth accelerates. And the irony of the last year is that U.S. growth has increased even as the Fed ended its program of bond purchases.

The biggest danger would be if the dollar overshoots on the strong side, as it arguably did in the 1990s. This could mean far more destruction here and abroad, in the commodity economy in particular, including to the U.S. energy boom. As U.S. companies suffer from Japanese and European competition, protectionist pressure could increase just as President Obama and Republicans are trying to pass trade-opening legislation.

All of which is a reminder that there is no free market in currencies, because their supply is controlled by the world’s central banks. The major central bankers need to pay attention as much to currency fluctuations as they do to their national economies. A stronger dollar would help the world more if it were also stable.
246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Guess where Rev. Sharpton's viagra prescription was found? on: January 06, 2015, 06:43:15 PM

and while we are at it:
247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Fight the Campus Speech Police on: January 06, 2015, 06:40:12 PM
How to Fight the Campus Speech Police: Get a Good Lawyer
That’s what student Daniel Mael had to do after Brandeis charged him with ‘harassment’ in a dispute over Israel.
By Sohrab Ahmari
Jan. 2, 2015 6:34 p.m. ET

Rolling Stone magazine in November published a 9,000-word account of a horrific gang rape alleged to have occurred in 2012 at a University of Virginia fraternity. The story triggered a national outcry. UVA administrators pre-emptively suspended all fraternal activities on campus, effectively tarring an entire class of students for maintaining a culture of rape and impunity.

Then the original story collapsed. The confusion and anger that followed was a teachable moment about campus frenzies and baseless moral panic. But the episode also threw into high relief another facet of modern higher education: university administrators who, in their eagerness to mollify critics, trample students’ rights and in the process lives and reputations.

Often students from unpopular groups and those who hold unpopular views find themselves alone, facing zealous administrators at closed-door disciplinary hearings. In these places the basic rights of Americans—including the right to counsel, due process, the presumption of innocence and even free speech—don’t apply.

That was the predicament faced by Daniel Mael, a senior majoring in business at Brandeis University near Boston. The 22-year-old native of Newton, Mass., is on the honor roll and has immersed himself in student life, intramural sports and Brandeis’s Orthodox Jewish community. As a student journalist, he has published articles in national outlets.

The problem: Mr. Mael is a pro-Israel man of the right on a campus increasingly hostile to conservatism and the Jewish state. The other problem: The Brandeis administration, as at so many colleges, is more committed to shielding students’ political sensitivities from “harassment” than challenging their minds. Brandeis administrators define harassment so broadly that almost any student could be guilty at any time.

Speaking by phone while on winter vacation in Israel this week, Mr. Mael says: “They try to intimidate students into being silent, in the interest of people’s feelings not being hurt, rather than encourage debate.”

In fall 2013, a public dispute about Israel broke out between Mr. Mael and Eli Philip, another Brandeis student and a leader of the campus affiliate of J Street, an advocacy outfit that describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace.” In the course of the debate Mr. Philip’s feelings were hurt—“then all hell broke loose,” Mr. Mael says. The result was a yearlong disciplinary saga that would threaten his future.

Yet unlike many students in this situation, Mr. Mael fought back, eventually retaining top-shelf legal counsel. The legal record generated by the case, now exclusively obtained by the Journal, shines a rare light on the hidden realm of campus discipline.

Like most harassment claims, the one Mr. Philip brought against Mr. Mael arose from actions and counteractions over which the two parties disagree. On Oct. 14, 2013, two campus pro-Israel organizations, the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee and Stand With Us, hosted Barak Raz, a former spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF.

As he wrote in a contentious Facebook exchange with Messrs. Mael and Raz and other students the next day, Mr. Philip, then a junior, said he “did walk in late, and did not hear the beginning and framing” of Mr. Raz’s lecture. Then Mr. Philip posed a question about the checkpoints the IDF operates in the Palestinian territories. “Motivated by deep frustration, the question was not asked calmly,” Mr. Philip would write in an op-ed about the incident published more than a month later in the Jewish Exponent, a Philadelphia periodical. (Mr. Philip didn’t respond to an email request for comment.)

Mr. Mael, also a junior at the time, says Mr. Philip was “particularly obnoxious” and “disrespectful” toward the speaker, behavior that Mr. Mael says continued online the next day, when, during the same Facebook exchange, Mr. Philip accused Mr. Raz of having “lie[d] to a roomful of students.” Mr. Mael says he decided to hold his political opponent accountable by challenging him in the university’s marketplace of ideas, including by publishing articles and circulating petitions.

Mr. Philip interpreted this as harassment, and in a Dec. 9, 2013, complaint to Brandeis administrators, he presented charges under the university code of conduct. Mr. Philip said in his written complaint that at a lunch meeting two days after the IDF event, Mr. Mael “accused me of behavior unfitting a Jewish soul” and of harboring “deep-seated ‘evil inclinations.’ ” Mr. Mael, Mr. Philip went on, “informed me that I damaged the Jewish community, that I should resign from my position as student leader, and that he must take action to restore the Jewish community.”

Mr. Mael says his words were misquoted and taken out of context, but that’s beside the point. Religious-oriented conversations, however passionate, don’t amount to harassment, a principle that the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission has set forth regarding workplaces and one even more relevant on college campuses, where philosophical disputation is supposed to be part of the air students breathe. Nor did the encounter amount to conduct with “the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering” with Mr. Philip’s “education or work performance,” as the Brandeis student code defines harassment. The students, after all, were having lunch.

Mr. Philip’s filing also complained that Mr. Mael attended J Street meetings. “His presence, sitting in the back of the room and typing notes after each comment, was uncomfortable and intimidating.” Blaming Mr. Mael’s influence, Mr. Philip noted that “the Orthodox community stopped speaking to me and routinely ignored me.” Also: “Getting lunch and dinner at the kosher section in Sherman dining hall became an uncomfortable experience.”

A responsible university administrator might have counseled Mr. Philip to take a deep breath and develop thicker skin for the slings and arrows of adult life. But on Dec. 5, 2013, Dean of Students Jamele Adams summoned Mr. Mael to his office, without informing him about the purpose of the meeting, the student says: “I was handed a copy of the Rights and Responsibilities handbook and told to familiarize myself with it because Eli was considering certain actions.”

Mr. Mael says he was also advised to avoid using social media—an odd discouraging of his free-speech rights and a hint of what lay ahead as the administration picked sides in the dispute.

For months, though, nothing happened. Mr. Philip went to Morocco for a semester abroad, and during that period Mr. Mael recalls he had “nothing to do with the dean.” He pressed on with his campus activism, helping to draw national attention to the Brandeis decision in April to withdraw its offer of an honorary doctorate to human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Then, three months ago, almost a year since the original incident, Mr. Adams re-entered Mr. Mael’s life. Again he was summoned to the dean’s office without knowing the Oct. 8 meeting’s purpose. “I’m told that there are charges against me under bullying, harassment and religious discrimination,” Mr. Mael recalls. “And I’m told that I have to give a response—guilty or not guilty—ideally within 48 hours.” A guilty determination could have led to his suspension or expulsion from school. Since this was around the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Mr. Mael was given about a week to reply.

Crucially, Mr. Mael wasn’t allowed to keep a copy of the complaint. Dean Adams told him that this was routine “procedure,” Mr. Mael says. “How am I supposed to tell my parents that I’m being brought to court and by the way I don’t know what the charges are?” Mr. Mael recalls thinking. “This is antithetical to the values of our Constitution.”

In a panic after the meeting with Dean Adams, Mr. Mael consulted his friend Noah Pollak, of the Washington-based Emergency Committee for Israel, which retained the Covington & Burling law firm to act on his behalf. Yet when Mr. Mael’s lawyer initially corresponded with university counsel, he was informed that “parties involved in the conduct process are not permitted to engage legal counsel to act or speak on their behalf.”

Covington & Burling paid no heed. With the deadline approaching and still without a copy of the complaint, Mr. Mael opted to plead not guilty and request a full hearing before a jury of his fellow students.

A ndrew Flagel, Brandeis’s senior vice president for students and enrollment, wouldn’t discuss the Mael case, citing federal privacy regulations, but said there is no university policy to advise students to curtail their speech online while a disciplinary case is pending. Mr. Flagel added that it is university practice not to provide the accused with a copy of a complaint but added that this is “one of the things we’ve been evolving.” Regarding the right to counsel, Mr. Flagel said: “This is not a legal proceeding, so your assumption that there is a right is not in evidence.”

By the end of October, Mr. Mael was finally provided a copy of the charges he would face. And Covington & Burling submitted to Brandies two lengthy legal memoranda blasting violations of Mr. Mael’s rights. One letter concluded: “We reserve all rights on behalf of Mr. Mael, including the right to assert claims for the reputational and other harms caused by the baseless allegations at the heart of this proceeding.” In other words: See you in court.

On Oct. 27 Dean Adams informed Mr. Mael via email that the “allegations against you will not be adjudicated through our Student Conduct Board. The accuser has withdrawn from the option to do so and therefore this case should be considered closed and without determination of fault or sanction. . . . Thank you for your cooperation.”

Thus closed a window on life at American universities, where administrators are only too happy to indulge the objections of students whose feelings are bruised in the combat of ideas. Mr. Mael considers himself fortunate not to be facing expulsion. “It’s imperative to understand that if I didn’t have extremely qualified counsel,” he says, “I would be under duress.”

As it happens, Brandeis University is named for the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, a free-speech champion and ardent Zionist.

Mr. Ahmari is a Journal editorial-page writer based in London.
248  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hep C drugs on: January 06, 2015, 11:35:52 AM
Gilead Strikes Hepatitis Drug Deal With CVS Health

Gilead Sciences struck back on Monday against its rival AbbVie in a budding marketing war over costly hepatitis C drugs, winning exclusive access to many patients whose prescriptions are managed by CVS Health.

CVS Health, the nation’s second-largest pharmacy benefits manager, said that it would make Gilead’s drugs, Harvoni and Sovaldi, the exclusive option for patients on its commercial drug list, as well as for patients it manages on health care exchanges, Medicare Part D and Medicaid.

The decision partly counteracts a decision made last month by Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager, to make AbbVie’s Viekira Pak the exclusive option for most patients in its main commercial plan covering 25 million people.

AbbVie earned that position by offering what Express Scripts characterized as a significant discount below Viekira’s list price of $83,319 for a typical 12-week course of treatment.

Express Scripts’ move caused a steep drop in Gilead’s shares and in many other biotech stocks because it suggested that pharmacy benefit managers were becoming more willing to limit patient options to procure discounts from drug companies, limiting the ability of drug manufacturers to charge high prices.

But on Monday, after CVS’s decision was announced, Gilead’s shares rose 2 percent to $96.79 while AbbVie’s shares fell nearly 2 percent to $64.68.

Geoffrey C. Porges, biotechnology analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, said that once Gilead was excluded by Express Scripts, it had a strong incentive to strike a deal with CVS “in order to ensure a reasonable level of access and also to avoid overblown negative perceptions of poor access.”

Gilead ignited protests by pricing Sovaldi, its first drug for hepatitis C, at $84,000 for a 12-week course of treatment, or $1,000 per daily pill. Gilead’s newer Harvoni has a list price of $94,500 for the 12 weeks of treatment, or $1,125 per daily pill.

While doctors have hailed both drugs as breakthroughs, some health plans, state Medicaid programs and prison systems said they could not afford to treat everyone at those prices. More than three million people in the United States are infected with the hepatitis C virus, which gradually destroys the liver.

The hope was that when AbbVie won approval for Viekira Pak in December, competition would drive down prices. That appears to be happening, though to what extent is not known because pharmacy benefit managers do not reveal how much of a discount they are getting.

CVS said in a statement that it goal “was to create the lowest net-cost solution for the entire population of patients” with hepatitis C. CVS’s decision was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cyberdefense is a government responsibility on: January 06, 2015, 11:27:00 AM
Cyberdefense Is a Government Responsibility
The Navy fought Barbary pirates to protect U.S. commerce. Digital pirates have much less to fear.
Alan Charles Raul
Jan. 5, 2015 7:09 p.m. ET

In 1794 when the commerce of the United States was threatened by “the depradations” of the Barbary pirates, Congress created a Navy. And it sent the Marines to fight our country’s battles on “the Shores of Tripoli.” Today U.S. commerce is threatened by digital Barbary pirates.

The most sophisticated companies with every incentive to protect their crown jewels—intellectual property, confidential business information or customer records—are being ransacked and held hostage by cyberterrorists, state-sponsored hackers and highly effective organized cybercriminals. No corporation today is immune or can realistically believe itself adequately protected.

The government’s response, hobbled by a misguided view as to who is responsible for protecting U.S. commercial interests and how, is not up to 1794 standards. Regulatory agencies including the Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and state attorneys general think that investigating the corporate victims of cyberattacks for putative violations of consumer and investor protection laws is the best way to shore up the economy’s cyberdefenses. There is little evidence this approach is effective.

While every enterprise can do better, the big banks, big retailers and big media companies whose hacks make the front pages are not being penetrated because they’ve skimped on security out of sloth, stupidity or greed. There is very little these companies could reasonably have done to detect or prevent some of these attacks, as the FBI and the Secret Service have acknowledged. Any more so, in fact, than the White House, Air Force, Postal Service, Commerce and State Departments, FTC, or countless other federal hacking victims, could guarantee their own cybersecurity.

The current blame-the-corporate-victim mentality relieves the government of any responsibility. Instead, Congress and the executive branch must recognize that the battle for cyberspace must be waged by latter day cyber Marines, and cyberdiplomats who can more effectively defend U.S. commerce.

Currently the federal government has a network-inspection tool, called EINSTEIN, to protect certain federal communications. If EINSTEIN is in fact working, the government should make it available more broadly. New technologies also need to be developed and deployed, and the government should make the investments in the necessary research as well as in so-called “active” defense and intelligence measures designed to protect private networks before they are successfully compromised. This means aggressively tracking, tracing, deceiving, disrupting and punishing the cyber bad guys and their state-sponsors or protectors.

Any such aggressive program will provoke legitimate privacy concerns about government surveillance, just as airport screening, NSA programs and other antiterrorism measures have done. To address this, Congress should expand the mandate of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a federal agency, to cover cybermeasures in addition to the board’s current focus on government activities to combat terrorism.

The president should also designate a senior policy official to manage the relevant privacy concerns and ensure that the government’s new cyberdefense force focuses strictly on the technical side of the computer networks, and not on the private contents of any communications. This will entail difficult judgment calls and intense oversight. But ferreting out and destroying malicious computer code is not inherently privacy invasive, whereas malware that exfiltrates our personal-account information and private emails certainly is.

To take on this responsibility, Congress and the president need to do more than merely offer “real time” “information sharing” that fosters “public-private partnerships.” These half measures have been the focus of recent cybersecurity legislation and administration policy, but they are not nearly sufficient. “Tougher” regulatory standards for the private sector are also not the answer.

President Obama has said that cyberattacks are “one of the most serious challenges we face as a nation,” and “America’s economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity.” Thus Congress and the president must immediately order the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and Secret Service—and the State Department—to protect American commerce from attacks, as the Navy and Marines protected U.S. maritime trade off the coast of Tripoli 200 years ago. And the public needs to hold our national leaders accountable to fight and win this battle.

Mr. Raul is a partner in the law firm Sidley Austin LLP. He previously served as vice chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a federal agency established by Congress after 9/11.
250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: January 06, 2015, 11:23:36 AM
This could turn into something fun , , ,
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